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From One Screen to Another:

Television Online

by Catherine Deely

Copyright 1999 Catherine Deely. All rights reserved.

Among the swirl of technological phenomena so widely predicted for the twenty-first century, one of the more plausible concepts is online TV, a practical marriage of television to the Net. Such a creation would allow viewers to actually watch their favorite shows in real time, simply by sitting in front of the PC, and, it can be assumed, by not so simply forking over a rather hefty sum. However, in a sense, TV's most devoted spectators need neither bide their time until the year 2000 nor kiss their paychecks goodbye in order to indulge in their favorite programs online. If you know where to look, you can find almost any show's episode guides, plotlines, character summaries, scripts, video and audio clips, and even fan-written fiction -- with just a free, easy click of the mouse.

The scope of TV-related sites on the Net, much like TV itself, ranges from cutting-edge sophistication to zany entertainment. One of the more elaborate and recent developments available online is real-time broadcasting, allowing news buffs to hear, and even see, live news coverage. Wichita's KCTU-55 bills itself as the first commercial station worldwide to pioneer 24-hour "as-it-happens" streaming audio from the newsroom. Note that most, if not all, such sites require RealPlayer to access footage, although many Net locations offer the chance to download RP free of charge. North Carolina's WRAL-TV5, takes its coverage a step further, providing live video feed of breaking news throughout the week. Household names MSNBC and the BBC each offer their own sites, complete with audio/video plug-ins, news updates, and detailed listings of upcoming television events, making the tedious process of flipping through the channels a thing of the past.

If your tastes veer toward the sporting world, you're also in luck; the Web is host to many a URL granting virtual admittance to the greatest game moments, present and past, ever captured on camera. CNN/SI, the joint production of the Cable News Network and Sports Illustratedmagazine, has some of the most lavish resources for sports lovers on the Net, with a menu offering periodic game updates, live broadcasts, and a "best of sports" video library (a special plus for those who forgot to set the VCR for the game of the century). Get decked out in your team colors and make the trip to your favorite sporting events via your browser. More than likely, you'll need a decent supply of beer and chips to sustain you there, too, as you may very well find enough to keep you occupied throughout the season.

Parents, take note: children's programming has taken its place on the Web, too. Kids who can't get enough can hop online and visit their most beloved channels, shows, and even characters. Historically popular kid-TV giant Nickelodeon has a customized site for its young fans. Dubbed "The Web Site for Kids," Nickelodeon Online features interactive games, quizzes, episode searches, downloadable music clips, broadcast segments, and even screen savers. Popular individual programs have gone cyberwise, too; the "Sesame Street" page, posted by the CTW Family Workshop, presents daily episode summaries and guides for parents, as well as a colorful "Sesame Street Safari" for young visitors. And yes, those juvenile heroes (and occasional parental headaches), Barney and the Rugrats, have Web addresses, too. Their sites are virtual playgrounds, full of trivia, interactive opportunities such as "You Write The Story," and detailed episode guides for shows past and present. (For folks less enamored with the purple dinosaur/cultural icon, pages like the dubiously titled Jihad To Destroy Barney, which declares itself "The World's Most Popular Anti-Barney Website!" are wickedly humorous indulgences -- for adults' eyes only, of course!)

Soap addicts are among the best-represented audiences in cyberspace, with sites devoted to every airing soap opera, numbering in the hundreds. From "All My Children" to "General Hospital" and "Days of Our Lives", devoted followers need no longer wait for the latest gossip, both on- and off-camera. These sites have it all, from the wildly unfathomable genealogies and histories of main characters, personal life stories of actors and actresses, daily episode updates and previews, and polls/opinion boards giving fans a chance to vent their reactions to various love affairs, scandals, and cast changes. Comprehensive sites such as TVGuide's SoapDish feature complete listings, updates, and episode libraries for essentially every daytime soap (and a few of the newer nighttime additions, as well).

Game shows, with their strictly traditional format, might seem unlikely candidates for Web exposure, but they, too, have found their niche on the information superhighway. Would-be contestants can take a spin down memory lane or take a shot at competing themselves on the sites of favorites such as "The Price is Right" or "Jeopardy!" . These popular destinations include highlights, host and guest biographies, and information on worldwide contestant searches.

And what would America do without her talk shows? Love him or hate him, Jerry Springer is undeniably one of the foremost forces in television today, and the site of "The Jerry Springer Show" draws nearly as much attention and controversy as does the program itself. While thousands of pages devoted to Jerry (including both praise and damnation thereof) exist on the Net, there is only one official Springer site. Here, visitors can find out today's "hot topic" (past choices have included "I Won't Give Up My XXX Career" and "I Don't Want You!"), meet Jerry online, and email commentary to the show's producers. For viewers with more mainstream preferences, perennial favorites Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O'Donnell give their audiences a little something extra in cyberspace. Oprah's site features everything from an "Oprah's Book Club" section to health and fitness tips, video clips, and the latest press releases issued from Oprah's publicist. Rosie's site is a delight for children as well as adult viewers, with its extensive album of guest photos, links to fans' home pages, and the chance to send personal greetings and messages to the self-proclaimed "Queen of Cyberspace" herself.

Last but not least, the Web is a premier resource for each individual fan wanting more info on his or her favorite shows -- dramas, sitcoms, and miniseries alike. While the number of sites devoted to individual shows borders on the infinite, a search for one's favorite program is guaranteed to lead to the most exhaustive compilation of data available. Some favorites:

The "Friends" site allows would-be friends to download segments of the most current episode (this requires Windows Media Player, Netshow or Quicktime, all of which can be downloaded at the site), catch classic clips on video theater, and take an online tour of the set. Another site whose vast entertainment and information value I can personally vouch for is The Complete Friends Script Index, a fan-produced page with painstakingly accurate transcripts of every "Friends" episode ever aired. "Ally McBeal" holds her own on the Net, and the cast of "NYPD Blue" reside in their own virtual precinct. Rival hospital dramas "ER" and "Chicago Hope" volunteer photos, storylines, multimedia segments and fan chat at their respective sites.

TV cult favorites like "Touched By An Angel" and "Xena: Warrior Princess" have official sites, as well, not to mention the countless fan pages devoted to creative fiction, message board postings, and chat rooms revolving around every show on the dial.

If you're looking for a glimpse into the past for nostalgic morsels of shows gone by, never fear. While official Web sites maintained by networks and production companies seldom exist, rest assured that diehard fans somewhere in the world have crafted valuable resource pages on their own. Archie Bunker aficionados can settle into their recliners at 704 Hauser Street , an encyclopedic tour of the history, laughs, and memorable moments at the Bunkers' house. Everybody will still know your name at The Original Cheers Website, where the layout of the infamous Boston bar is graphically duplicated and Sam's one-liners are preserved as audio clips. And yes, even Mr. Ed is alive and well, and neighing on the Net, with his own page Ed-, Carol-, and Wilbur-related links compiled by the Mining Company Guide.

So the next time your half-hour voyage into the world of your favorite program ends, leaving you with a thirst for more -- more characters, more trivia, more TV itself -- remember that your computer and your television don't have to be such distant acquaintances, after all. Turn on the computer, surf the Web, and see what you find. You won't have to wait until the next century, and you won't have to pay a cent, which makes the Net, without a doubt, the real "greatest show on earth."

Catherine Deely is currently completing her junior year at Boston College, where she is a Communication major specializing in WWW and Digital Media. In addition to being a certified Net addict, she holds high hopes of finding "THE dream job" -- combining writing, media, and research for an online publication. Catherine can be reached at


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